Sunday, July 3, 2011

The Long Overdue Vacation Blog....Brace Yourself

Maybe subconsciously I've been putting off writing this blog to avoid self-incrimination...(the pictures will speak for themselves)...or maybe I'm just now recovering from vacation and the long weekend in Key West that followed...Yup - I'm going with number two. The first vacation Doug and I took since being officially back at w***, you know the "w" word which for all of our cruising buddies I won't even say, is going to be a hard act to follow let me tell you!

We headed down to Miami the other Saturday morning to catch a puddle jumper flight over to Marsh Harbour in the Abacos, Bahamas to meet up with the SS September Song, the one and only ship in a brand new all inclusive cruise line complete with a salty, seasoned captain, gourmet food, water toys and two very friendly canine stewards who love to keep you occupied fishing, playing catch or just sniffing your crotch...we can't recommend it highly enough!!!

After almost not getting there because of mechanical difficulties and sunset flight restrictions (huh???), we arrived in Marsh Harbour, whisked our way through customs and immigration and collected our bags (easily accomplished in a one room airport I must say - aaaahhhh to be back in the islands mon!) Off in a taxi to the marina where we joined in some well deserved frivolity with the SS crew - Steph and Bob greeted us by the pool with smiling faces and a cooler of cold beer - does life get any better!! Yippee - the gang was together again! Plus there were new friends to see - Pam and Steven on Tide's In, Nancy and Rusty on Summerwind and Nancy and Jay on Serendipity (not so new friends - what fun - we played with these guys last year in Marathon and Key West!!!) We all hung around the pool, laughing, sharing adult beverages of one sort or another (think rum....that will be the key to the week), laughing, watching a beautiful island sunset,
laughing, eating fresh grouper from Conchy Joe's next door (a funky little house boat with the best fish ever!!) and generally having a great time. You know you're with very special friends when you just pick right up where you left off and your stomach hurts from laughing so much!!

The next day we were off with the tide (yes, unlike the Exumas, you have to worry about tide in the Abacos - we saw some less then salty captains hard aground in our adventures) to Nippers for the pig roast...well if you've never been to Nippers, I'm not sure I can do it justice. It ranks right up there with Foxy's, Bomba Shack, Dune Preserve and Soggy Dollar Bar for legendary beach bars and that's really saying something!! It's got hammocks in the two pools, a drop dead gorgeous beach, several levels for dancing and just about the most deadly rum drinks around, especially with the rum floaters .... Steven, you're only supposed to have one floater per drink not four of them......

But before I go there, I have to say how awesome it was to be back on a boat underway heading from one island to another - there is just nothing like it!!! Doug and I looked at each other as if to say "OK - work really really hard so we can get back out here on the water cruising where we belong!!!
Stephanie and Tammy are the Underway Navigators
We dropped the hook in Fishing Bay off Great Guana and watched in awe (at the stupidity involved) as the snailboat next to us proceeded to load about 8 people in a very low riding dinghy - we watched to see if they would swamp - come on wave!! Then it was off to shore where we had to fortify ourselves at Grabbers - a wonderful beach bar in its own right and home of what became my favorite rum drink!

We were joined by Pam and Steven and the party was officially starting!
Two Fisted Drinking at Grabbers
The Team Leaves Grabbers
From Grabbers it was a walk up the hill to Nippers - of course we had to stop half way there at Pirates Cove for a refreshing beverage - what?? it had been a quarter mile (maybe not quite...)! Passing the cemetery (which I'm sure contains many self medicated souls leaving Nippers!),

The Cemetary
we finally came upon the infamous Nippers - according to the Barefoot Man, "If you get shut off at Nippers, man, you're really drunk!"
I'm going to let the pictures tell our Nippers story but suffice it to say we did not get shut off (which means no one ever has), and it was one wonderful rum, sun, and friend soaked day complete with plenty of rum floaters and new tattoos (OK these were fake....)
More Rum at Nippers
Bob Being Naughty Checking Out the Scenery at Nippers
The Beach at Nippers
Stephanie and Tammy Enjoy Their Nippers
Stephanie Sports Her Tattoo from Nippers
Pam and Steven Dancing at Nippers
Nippers is a Multi-Level Series of Decks
I was very proud of our group - while we kicked up our heels a little (or a lot - Steven - from what I hear, we were a very bad, bad influence on him - yippee), unlike the Barefoot Man's song, none of us "rolled back down the hill blowing chunks!!" We stopped of course on the way down the hill at Pirate's Cove when we spied Steven flashing his new tat at the bar - we thought they had headed back to their boat a while ago...kewl.
The Group Back Together at Pirates Cove
Steven Flashing His New Tattoo
Then back to Grabbers for a burger and more rum...Steven entertained us and the whole bar by falling off his dinghy and dancing in the water!! We tucked Doug into bed around 7:30 that evening while the rest of us stayed up on the flybridge of SS watching the stars...and drinking a little rum out of our new Nippers cups (if you buy a cup, you get free rum floaters all day...just a little tip!)

The next day was a little slow to develop - wonder why......but soon enough we were dinghying in to one of the most beautiful beaches ever!!!
Cassie and Godiva are Ready to Go to the Beach
The calm turquoise waters of the bay were on one side and the crashing surf of the Atlantic on the other!! Gosh it was great to be back in the islands....despite having beach chairs and towels, I'm not sure we left the water all day - except maybe to grab another coldie....Cassie and Godiva loved having lots of playmates - lots of people to throw the ball and fish with (luckily Cassie didn't see the sharks swimming by!!!)

We could have stayed there all day but too soon it was time to head back to the boat - there was a fresh mahi fry on SS that evening!!! What an evening - the crew of SS cooked up a gourmet meal of fresh mahi that they had caught, Serendipity provided Bahamian mac and cheese and Tide's In brought a tray full of jello shots for dessert!!! Have I mentioned I love jello shots??? and these were the bomb (literally cherry bombs and shark bites - yum) Pam - you are the jello shot queen! We stayed up way too late laughing our butts off listening to the Barefoot Man - god I still have a brain worm (go away if you see Kay....and she likes my deck!!! and forget about Jeff - he can't even swim Jay!!) If you have never heard the Barefoot Man - he is very fun - and his new cd Dirty Foot is screamingly funny.
The Master Chefs Prepare Dinner Aboard September Song
Dinner on September Song
Jello Shots Anyone?
Jello Shot Dead Soldiers - Did we Drink/Eat All Those?
Stephanie and Bob Blow Their Conks at Sunset

The rest of the week we were on a mission - one of the tee shirts we got was called the Abacos Stumble and listed 9 different bars. We managed to hit 6 of them which for only about 5 days (given we had to tuck into Marsh Harbour a day early due to the weather) was not too bad - and we were able to hit the last bar on Bob and Steph's tee shirt!!!! We visited Hopetown where we got to climb the lighthouse - it is still manually tended and operated (to keep the light turning it needs to be wound every three hours!) Once you climbed out of a tiny three foot doorway, there were simply awesome views of the harbor - our cruise ship was sitting pretty much right in the middle - can't miss her.
The Three Foot Square Doorway to the Outer Deck
The Hopetown Lighthouse
Great View of Hopetown from The Lighthouse
SS September Song from the Hopetown Lighthouse
View from One of the Windows in the Lighthouse

Hopetown is a quaint little Bahamian town full of brightly colored houses and flowering gardens. I think this is what I love so much about the islands - the explosion of color everywhere - combined with the always friendly locals!
Local Color
More Local Color
More Local Color
Hours Posted at Vernon's Grocery Store
Hopetown was home to Captain Jack's, a great little waterfront bar,
Captain Jack's
Dinner at Captain Jack's
Sunset in Hopetown
and from the small downtown area we took a shuttle out to the Abacos Inn - Bob and Steph's last unvisited tee shirt bar! Glad we could experience it with you guys!!!
Rum Drinks on the Deck at the Abaco Inn
Great View from the Deck at the Abaco Inn
Great Sunset from the Abaco Inn

From Hopetown, we dinghyed over to Cracker P's another great beach bar and tee shirt spot!!
The Dock at Cracker P's
Local Humor at Cracker P's
We opened the bar and had it to ourselves for a while - the bartender was the daughter of a former Hopetown lighthouse keeper so we got to hear all about its history and what it was like to live there as a child! How fun!! While we were there, the woman across the bar from us started to have a seizure - she literally stopped breathing! We got her airway open and just as Doug and I were about to start CPR she came to and started to breathe although she was slurring her words for a while - very scary!!! Thankfully she seemed to be OK because there was no 911 help coming - we were in an out island and when the bar owner tried to call for help, he was told that no one could come but that if they got her to Marsh Harbour (20 minutes by boat away), an ambulance could meet her. While you hope you never have to use it, Doug and I were really glad we had taken our 3 week first responder first aid course - hope you are doing OK Marva!!!

Back in Marsh Harbour to get out of the nasty weather, we as always made the most of it - one night at Snappa's and Curly Tails for cracked conch and rum drinks
The Team Doing "the Steven" at Snappa's
Local Talent at Snappas
- the boys even got umbrellas in their drinks!!! Aren't they cute!
The next night we had a wonderful dinner of seared tuna (OK I am now a huge fan!) and coconut macadamia mahi and finally got to see Brown Tip doing some Bahamian rake and scrap - the musicians actually play saws with knives. A slip would be really bad news not only to their health but to their manhood! You just can't make this up - Brown Tip was joined by black tip and his buddy white tip (OK those are made up....) Too much fun!!
The Tiki Bar for Rake and Scrape
After we left Rake and Scrape we headed back to Snappa's for a drink only to run into a limbo contest.

Our last day we spent around the pool eating some of Conchy Joe's cracked conch - when in the islands, mon!!
Conchy Joe's
Conchy Joe's Cracked Conch Around the Pool
Then it was time to head to the airport to fly home - and then depression set in. While the Abacos are so very different from the Exumas and the other islands of the Bahamas we've seen, they certainly have their own charm and won our hearts!! It was so sad saying goodbye not just to Bob, Steph and the girls but to our new friends as well - especially since it may be awhile before we see the SS gang again as they are headed north now that they crossed back to the States (and we were in Key West when they came through Cocoa!!) We had such a wonderful week on September Song - as always, it was special to see you all and we can't thank you guys enough!!!! That was the best cruise we've ever taken!! Betty Ford and Weight Watchers here we come.....

But not so fast...the weekend after we got home from the Bahamas was the grand opening of the Smokin' Tuna Saloon in Key West, a new bar owned by our friend Scott Kirby. What kind of friend would be if we missed it???? So of course we headed down to Key Weird on Thursday night after Doug's red-eye flight from hell - where he didn't make it back to Orlando until 6 pm!! Never flying United again - 3 out of 4 of his planes had mechanical problems and had to be switched out! We cruised into KW mid-morning Friday, checked in to our old haunt the Seascape Inn and promptly headed out to get some Schooner Wharf wings. God it was great to be back "home" - Wendi was still at the bar and Michael McCloud was still playing music so it was old home week!! Bob - we smoked a stoogie for you!!

After a day of playing and bar hopping our way around KW, we went to the grand opening of the Smokin' Tuna Saloon to see Scott, Dave and the gang - what a night!! Open bar for an hour - he told us that never would have happened if he'd known we were coming...we think he was kidding.... The place looks great, the music as always rocked, and it was packed! Plus with a slogan like "We're smokin tuna ... and its legal!" - how can it not succeed??? Anyone who is heading to KW, check them out on Charles Street where the old El Alamo used to be (the alley across Duval form Irish Kevins) - they serve lunch and dinner and there is live music every night from 5:00 pm until closing.

Afer Scott and Dave finished playing on Friday night, we headed over to Rick's where there was a private party for Cynthia Aguillar, the woman who paddled from Cuba to KW. A gang of our cruising buddies had served as her "mothership" for the trip - so not only did we get to celebrate with Cynthia but we got to see our friends on Muircu (Jill and Brett), Beausoleil (Shawna and Jon) and Sunluver (Nancy and Bob)!!! After Doug got his tattoo at Paradise,
Doug's New Tattoo on His Right Bicep
we spent Saturday in search of the best ahi tuna and of course a few cold beverages - believe it or not, Schooner's tuna rocked!!! There is a new menu (and obviously chef) at the Wharf - what used to be a place only to get wings (and attend the three happy hours a day), is now very good! Back to the Smokin Tuna for another evening of great music, great friends, and cold beverages. It was awesome to see all you guys - we'll be down again soon! Bob and Steph - we got you virgin Smokin Tuna tee shirts!!

On Sunday we had to stop by Paradise again on the way out of town so I could get my new tat....I had a brain storm while I was waiting for Doug and didn't want to wait for our next trip to KW so Tommy told me he'd do my tat right when they opened - kewl!
Tammy's New Tattoo
I even have the next one all planned out for our next visit - it was part of the brain storm!!! Now I'm back to thinking of that darn brain worm....if man, you're funny!

Sorry there are no pictures of KW and the new bar or anything, but I find that when we are in the keys, unless we're with other people, I tend not to take my camera. I think that works out better anyways!! Besides, there are enough pictures from the Bahamas. That about catches you up - work is crazy because of course no vacation goes unpunished.....but we did sneak away to Universal yesterday for some Harry Potter, and water rides! Pouring today so I guess it's as good a day as any to catch up on work....Only 19 more days until Deathly Hallows Part 2 - I see another midnight showing in our future.

But before that, we are seeing Mac McAnally this Friday night at Margaritaville in Orlando - yahoo!! Life is what you make of it folks - take time to enjoy!!